Seattle has always had a small pop-up scene, but these microbusinesses have proliferated since the coronavirus pandemic began, offering everything from stuffed croissants and tacos to fried chicken and pizza. Pop-ups require little to no capital, and depending on the type of food offered, Washington’s cottage industry laws mean business owners don’t necessarily need to pay for a commercial kitchen for production. With many restaurants still closed for indoor dining, the pandemic has offered new opportunities for these nascent bakers to establish a name for themselves.
Some operators, like Wendy Scherer, former head baker at Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Bakery and current owner of Patch Pocket Productions, which focuses on soft pretzels, entered the pop-up scene because they were laid off during the pandemic and suddenly had time to pursue a passion.
“What’s cool about this for me is after spending so much time in a commissary kitchen it’s nice to see the people who are getting the things you’re making,” Scherer says.
Other pop-up operators, like Samantha Padilla and Ashley Hernandez of Coping Cookies, started out of a desire to connect with their community during an isolating time.
Hernandez works in the psychiatric unit at Seattle Children’s hospital. Shortly after the pandemic took hold, she noticed that many of her co-workers were feeling discouraged and burned out. Wanting to contribute a mood-booster while also supporting social justice initiatives, she organized a bake sale, asking co-workers to donate $15 and above to one of three organizations she picked in exchange for a box of cookies she’d put together.
“It was a one-time thing, but every time I came into work, [my co-workers] were like, where are those cookies?” Hernandez says.
In June, Hernandez and her partner Padilla began hosting online bake sales, donating a portion of proceeds to charitable organizations centered on social justice or mental health issues. Thereafter, they started doing Seattle-area pop-ups. Now, boxes sell out within minutes and lines at their pop-ups frequently wrap around the block. The cookies are thick (many weigh more than 6 ounces!) and filled with varying textures and flavors.
“The internet cookie community is like a competition to see how much you can shove in there, but we really take pride in making sure everything is really balanced,” Hernandez says.
If you’re looking for a new tasty treat to try, here are 20 (yes, 20) of the hottest Seattle-area pop-ups right now that feature bakers who have perfected everything from alfajores to pavlova. Although some of these are so popular you might have to set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to preorder on time, many have subscription boxes or do delivery, making their goodies easier to obtain.
Patch Pocket Productions
Known for: Soft pretzels (and round, bagel-like pretzels!), English muffins and loaves of bread
Wendy Scherer’s English muffins are fluffy and perfect when toasted; the round pretzels are a sandwich’s best friend. Order via Instagram by Wednesday for Saturday delivery in West Seattle, or pickup in Ballard.
Oso Negro Baking Co.
Known for: Traditional South American alfajores; a cornstarch butter cookie sandwiching a rich dulce de leche
Bakers Aislinn McManigal and Sebastian Quintana Olivares coat the cookies in chocolate, white chocolate or peanut butter; the flavors change often. Preorder online for Thursday delivery or find them at the Fremont Sunday Market and the Burien Farmers Market on Thursdays. They can also occasionally be found alongside other pop-ups around the city.
Selva Central Goods
Known for: Pan dulce
Mayra Sibrian specializes in Central American pan dulce. Aside from the pan dulce, there’s also sweet breads spiked with cinnamon or coconut, plantain muffins filled with chocolate ganache, plus the occasional pupusa. Find her at the Burien Farmers Market and the Saturday Proctor Farmers’ Market in Tacoma as well as pop-ups around Seattle. Preorder for pickup at regular markets; check the website for the current schedule.
My Friend’s Cookies
Known for: HUGE cookies
The tagline for these cookies is “Really Big & Pretty Good.” The second part is an incredible understatement; Sara Eveland creates large, wonderfully chewy iterations of cookie flavor classics, from chocolate chip and snickerdoodle to peanut butter and classic sugar. Follow Instagram for pop-up announcements or stop by Watson’s Counter (6201 15th Ave. N.W., Seattle) in Ballard, Monday-Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cake Life Everyday
Known for: Intricate cakes and croissants
Baker Kait Winowitch creates gorgeous wedding/special event cakes to order, and over the past year has added beautiful sweet and savory croissants. Flavors change weekly, and if twice-baked almond and chocolate or salmon with scallion cream cheese aren’t your thing, there’s always a plain option. Find them Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-noon at Lowercase Brewing (6235 Airport Way S., Seattle) in Georgetown.
Sweet Nothings and More
Known for: Croissants and chocolate babka
There are a few ways to get your hands on Alina Muratova’s croissants and other baked goods (do not miss the chocolate babka). Order care packs or cookie kits for delivery, preorder for her many weekend pop-ups, or swing by a pop-up to see what she’s got. Pop-ups and menus are announced each Tuesday and held everywhere from Renton to Bothell. Check Instagram and the website for weekly details.
From V with Love
Known for: Delicious gluten-free cakes
For anyone who is gluten-free but yearns for cake, Valeria Koulikova is here for you. Her artful cakes, many finished with a flawless mirror glaze, are stacked with layers of light-as-air mousse, sponge cake, crunchy elements and more. There’s also sugar-free options and crêpe cakes available. Order whole cakes, sample flavor boxes or miniature gift boxes for pickup or delivery.
Known for: Slovenian potica
The go-to item here is the potica, a Slovenian bread swirled with hazelnuts, figs and chocolate. Casey Cooper also whips up pita, sourdough and regular English muffins, and other baked goods. Order online by Wednesday for Friday delivery to most of Seattle. If you live outside the delivery area, send an inquiry with your address.
Known for: Bread!
Baker Ben Campbell and his wife/business partner Megan Campbell are popping up roughly once a month at a few area restaurants with a bakery’s worth of incredible bread, rolls and the occasional cheesy cracker. The Maestro, a sourdough loaf made from local grains, might be the only loaf of bread you’ll ever need for toast again, but the benne-seed-covered Benne Miso Scallion (with a miso-spiked leaven) is also not to be missed. Subscribe to their newsletter or check Instagram to be alerted to the next pop-up; preorders are encouraged.
Known for: Pie
Gracie Santos’ pies go beyond classic flavors. Yes, there’s apple and pecan, but there’s also flavors inspired by Girl Scout cookies, pear-Gorgonzola, and red velvet cheesecake. Pies come in pocket and mini sizes, but whole pies and special orders can be arranged. Instagram is the best place to find pop-up details, but she’ll be at Moto (4526 42nd Ave. S.W., Seattle) in West Seattle on May 9 and Distant Worlds Coffee (6417 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle) in Ravenna on May 16.
Lady Grey Seattle
Known for: Gorgeous cakes
Alia Al-Hatlani and Becca Hapke’s cakes have long been coveted for weddings and special events. Since the pandemic began, they have been popping up at the Pastry Project, selling preorders as well as slices of their popular flavors (like pistachio with whipped cream cheese and raspberry) the day of. The next pop-up is scheduled for May 8 at the Pastry Project (165 S. Main St., Seattle) in Pioneer Square. Check Instagram for details.
Delicately Sweet Confections
Known: Fun variety boxes filled with sweet treats
Owner Johanna Knapp says her Sweet Boxes helped her small business make it through the pandemic. The April box includes carrot cake cookie sandwiches, mini egg chocolate chip cookies, and coconut custard macaroons, but you can also order cookie-decorating kits, and incredible bake-at-home cinnamon rolls. Place orders via the website by Wednesday at noon for pickup or limited delivery on Friday and Saturday.
Known for: Hefty cookies for a good cause
Hernandez and Padilla create hefty yet wonderfully balanced cookies crammed with flavor, like the Carrot ’Bout It, with a spice cake base, yogurt chips and a cream cheese buttercream center. Grab them by the box (a portion of the proceeds goes toward a different charity each month) during monthly drops, or get them individually at local pop-ups. Keep an eye on Instagram for details.
Good Luck Bread
Known for: Frozen pizza that will change your mind about frozen pizza
Corrie Strandjord makes frozen pizza so good you will never venture down that aisle at the grocery store again. Pizzas go live every Monday at noon for Thursday delivery around Seattle, or you can sign up for “The Program,” for a standing order, delivering Mondays.
Known for: Terrific challah and other goodies
My family ate Leo Leher-Small’s entire loaf of challah in one sitting with dinner. It’s fluffy and speckled with sesame seeds, and also comes in sandwich form — specifics change weekly. There’s pomegranate-braised beef, roasted eggplant or sesame fried chicken, plus the occasional blintz, slice of chocolate cake or doughnut. Order via Instagram by noon on Thursday for a Friday pickup in the University District.
Known for: Bread products so good people used to go to Vashon to get them
Named for baker Courtney Geilenfeldt’s nana, Bakery Darlene has recently relocated from Vashon Island to Capitol Hill. Geilenfeldt aims to have things back up and running, serving up sourdough loaves and bagels, mini pavlovas and cruffins by the end of this month. Subscribe to the newsletter for updates, as these pavlovas, topped with lemon pastry cream and fresh citrus, are not to be missed.
Boot Scootin’ Bread
Known for: Sourdough with a cheery message, plus pastries
Ellary Collins stamps each of her crackly sourdough loaves with a friendly flour “HOWDY,” which brought a smile to my face with every slice. Boot Scootin’ Bread (formerly Howdy Bread Co.) also offers cruffins and jalapeno popper croissants at pop-ups and recently began a six-month residency at Pioneer Square’s Pastry Project; the first event is scheduled for May 16, and preorders are encouraged.
The Pastry Project
Known for: Variety boxes filled with sweet treats
Emily Kim and Heather Hodges started The Pastry Project in 2020 to help break down barriers in the pastry world by offering a free training course. In the year since, they’ve begun offering monthly Goody Boxes and pastry kit subscriptions plus pastry pop-ups. Additionally, the Pioneer Square shop is a host for other pop-ups. Visit their website to sign up for the next kit and to learn about upcoming events.
Known for: Polish paczki
Marek Oliver’s specialty is the Polish paczki, a filled, yeasted doughnut dusted with either powdered sugar or a light glaze. They are wonderfully pillowy, with a good ratio of filling-to-doughnut. There’s also faworki angel wings, deep-fried strips of crisp pastry dusted with powdered sugar. Preorder online for Seattle-area delivery on Saturdays.
Black Magic Sweets
Known for: Beautiful macarons
Delicate macarons, hand-painted with whimsy by bakery Aliya Davis. Flavor combinations change bimonthly and are available on the website to be shipped, or for pickup at Friday Afternoon Tea in Wallingford and at The Works Seattle in Yesler Terrace.